In 2012, Oberlin was named as one of five inaugural America’s Best Intergenerational Communities by MetLife Foundation/Generations United. This past weekend, I was reminded how powerful the connections across generations are in our community when I attended Strawberry Fields, the affecting winter term opera, put on by Oberlin students and faculty in collaboration with residents of Kendal at Oberlin.
Strawberry Fields underscores the importance of getting to know people of all ages, including older people with health challenges. It tells the story of a Columbia University graduate student and an older woman suffering from dementia who meet in Central Park. The woman believes the daily activities of people in the park are part of an opera being performed all around her. That somewhat whimsical notion leads to tension with others in the park and with the woman’s adult children, who want her to move to a nursing home.
Amber Monroe, a sophomore vocal performance major, starred in the opera by playwright A.R. Gurney and composer Michael Torke. Kendal resident Allen Huszti played the workman. He also sang in the chorus along with fellow residents Carol Harvey, Anne Martin, Jane Hannauer, George Hannauer, and Nancy McClusky. Bob Cothran, a Kendal resident and Oberlin College professor emeritus, designed and constructed the set with assistance from students.
The production also highlighted the amazing, creative, interdisciplinary, and experiential learning opportunities that Oberlin offers during winter term and throughout the academic year.
Those attributes were also on display at the LaunchU Pitch Competition. At this annual showcase for Oberlin’s budding entrepreneurs, students and alumni offered their plans for creating or expanding new organizations or businesses, including nonprofits and for-profits.
In true Oberlin fashion, all the pitches contained an element of changing the world. Alumni from different generations, as well as friends and staff, mentored these aspiring entrepreneurs. The effect and atmosphere were truly electric.
This program has grown by leaps and bounds since it was founded three years ago. I am so grateful to the many alumni and friends of Oberlin who have volunteered their time and support for this worthy cause. Thank you for creating this exciting program benefiting our students and alumni.
Finally, let me mention that last semester, and now this semester, I have auditor students in my class from Kendal and elsewhere. This experience enriches the teaching and the learning here and benefits our students.
Thanks also go out to the current and former Oberlin students who volunteer their time and expertise to help individuals, churches, and non-profit organizations in the City of Oberlin. Each year, Oberlin students volunteer to teach Spanish in the elementary schools and to tutor K-12 students. Our students also volunteer at the Oberlin Early Childhood Center, Oberlin Community Services, the Oberlin Community Youth Scholarship Fund, Kendal, and elsewhere.
Finally, on a sad note, our community is experiencing a tremendous sense of loss for Jesse Rowsell, the beloved professor of chemistry who had such a profound, positive influence upon many students. On behalf of all of us, I offer deepest condolences to Jesse’s wife, Rebecca Whelan, and their family.